D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders find themselves down two goals and three goals, respectively, in their quests to get to MLS Cup on December 1. That’s not good. Not good at all.
Their opponents, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy, are massive favorites to advance. As MLSSoccer.com’s Simon Borg notes, only two teams — the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes and the 2004 Kansas City Wizards — have ever come back from a two-goal deficit. That’s a 25 percent success rate, which is not encouraging. (But also maybe better than expected?)
The 2011 Sounders are the only team in league history to start the second leg down three goals. They lost 3-2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake.
So it doesn’t look very good. But if a team is going to make a run, which one will it be?
D.C. United would be the sensible pick, seeing as they have less of a hill to climb. And Ben Olsen squad appeared destined to reach the league’s final game after their insane run of late-season form. That said, a variety of circumstances conspired to stop them. First, injuries, injuries, injuries. They did okay without DeRo — you know, for a team losing its best player and all — but Chris Pontius reaggrevated a groin injury in the first leg. And Andy Najar is out, suspended after throwing the ball at a ref. They will struggle to score without those two.
So, I’m taking Seattle. (Note: I don’t think either underdog will make it to MLS Cup.) The Sounders have a massive home-field advantage and plenty of weapons. The Galaxy look unbeatable, but maybe second-choice centerback Tommy Meyer chokes. Get one goal early, get the crowd (even more involved), and this thing gets interesting.
Don’t forget: Weird things happen when the Galaxy go to Seattle in big matches.
Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.
17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).
Luxembourg 1-3 France
Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.
Portugal 3-0 Hungary
Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.
Belgium 1-1 Greece
Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.
Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying
Sweden 4-0 Belarus
Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands
Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia
What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.
Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.
Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.
On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.
TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.
During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.
“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.
The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”